Queuing for lunch at work today, I had a conversation with two children, ages maybe five and six. It went approximately like this – I did a bit of abridging. All the while, imagine me concentrating very hard on not looking at the fifty adults standing in the line too, and not imagining what they are thinking.
Child 1: Look Dad, that man’s got yellow glasses!
Adult (tiredly): Well, indeed.
Me: What makes you think I’m a man?
Child 1: You’ve got hairy legs.
Child 2: So you’re a man.
Me: Actually that’s not true. All people with hairy legs aren’t men.
Child 1: But you look like a man.
Me: But I’m not.
Child 2: Are you a woman then?
Child 1 (victoriously): Then you’re a man!
Me: I’m not a man, and I’m not a woman. I’m transgender.
Child 1 & Child 2: What’s that?
Me: There’s other people than men or women.
Child 1 & Child 2: No there aren’t.
Child 1: I’m sure you’re a man. You’re just kidding me.
Me: You can be sure and still be wrong. I’m not kidding you, I’m not a man.
Child 1: What are you then? Are you an alien from space?
Me: That’s okay with me.
Child 1: But you look like a man!
Me: You say I look like a man because you’ve been told that people who look like me are men. That’s not always true.
Child 2: But I know you’re a man!
Me: You can’t know what anybody is until they tell you. It’s not about (insert Finnish child words for genitalia) and it’s not about what you look like.
Child 1: …
Child 2: …
Child 1: So are you just a human?
Me: Yes, that’s exactly right. I’m just me, and I’m just a human.
Child 1: BUT YOU LOOK LIKE A MAN!
Me: I’m in disguise.
Child 2: In disguise?
Child 1 & Child 2: Oh. (They take their food trays & go, glance at me over their shoulders, I smile amusedly, they smile bemusedly.)